“[An elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9)
Qualifications for ministers are listed in several New Testament passages, including 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and at every point they are rigorous to say the least. Why, then, are the qualifications for ministers so demanding?
The wisdom of Paul’s instruction in these passages relates to the fact that an overseer will lead God’s people as they grow up into the fullness of Christ through the careful study and application of God’s word. Simply stated, an individual whose life has not been transformed profoundly by the power of the gospel is hardly in a position to lead others in this way of life. And, an individual who does not clearly commend the Lordship of Christ will lack credibility in exhorting others to obey Jesus’ teachings.
A key qualification for pastors, which is one of the only skills that Paul includes in the list, is the ability to teach. This ability distinguishes the pastor from the deacon and others who serve in the church. The ministry of teaching and proclaiming God’s word is central to the role of the pastor who must lead the church in the wisdom of God’s word.
Paul explains the nature of this ministry more fully in Titus where he writes that an overseer “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). Thus he connects instruction with holding firm to the trustworthy word, which is a way of saying the leaders of the church should adhere to the church’s message.
His point could not be clearer: the messenger’s life must be consistent with the message that is preached. And, as chief messenger the pastor must be capable of delivering the healthy doctrine that will sustain the health of the church.
One may serve in a number of roles within the church without possessing the gift of teaching, but one who aspires to be an overseer must be capable of explaining and applying the word of God clearly. Doctrine and lifestyle are connected in the ministry of a pastor to such a degree that the pastor’s spiritual health, the health of the church, and the church’s ability to minister within the community are all at stake.
If you sense that God has called you to serve as a minister it is imperative that you take this biblical instruction to heart for the sake of your personal well-being and for the sake of those who will come under your care.